The wind was rising and the clouds were now flying across the narrow strip of sky between the chimney pots. The sun had set and it's last rays of light were leaving the land quickly. The darkness was setting in. ''You will need this if you are to ward of the darkness,'' the fortune teller had said. What did she mean?
Hjay's mind was racing, but not as fast as her feet, which felt as if they had suddenly sprouted wings. She saw a deserted alley and darted in, falling to her knees on the cold pavement and gasping for air. After a minute she managed to control her ragged breathing and, glanced around to make doubly sure that she really was alone. Then Hjay opened her hands and stared in wonder at what lay in them. In her left hand she held a circular blue stone, the same shade of blue as the fortune teller's eyes. It was shining slightly, leaving a blue ring of light around it on her palm. In her right there lay a small leather drawstring bag. Unlike the stone, it had no special appearance or feel of power about it. Intrigued, Hjay opened the neck of the bag and shook it's contents out onto her hand. There were two uneven flint stones and a couple of small candle stubs that looked pretty useless for anything. She frowned down at the objects. Why had she been given such meaningless bits of candle and flint?
Suddenly Hjay heard the sound of uneven footsteps behind her and a voice grated. 'Put those things away.'
She spun around on her knees to find herself staring up into the eyes of the kind-faced man in the long black cloak, leaning on his staff. 'I said, put them away,' he repeated sternly. 'You don't know who else might be watching.'
Quickly wrapping her coat around her hands and stuffing the flint and candles back inside their bag, Hjay watched the man curiously. 'How – how did you know...?'
'I watched, girl,' he said shortly, 'and I'm sure many others did too.'
'Our enemy,' he murmured, lowering his voice, 'and if you ever meet him, light one of those candles using the flint – just never let it go out.'
Hjay staggered to her feet, clutching the gifts securely in both hands. 'I don't understand.' she said, fear and bewilderment beginning to show in her voice.
'And it's not the time or place for me to explain,' the man said, beginning to back away down the street, feeling the way behind him with his staff.
'Wait!' Hjay cried desperately.
'Try to get home. If you can do that, then some day I will explain.' He bowed his head slightly to her, turned on his heel and disappeared into the darkness of the alley beyond.
Suddenly, with the man's disappearance, Hjay felt very alone and vulnerable. She considered running down the street to catch up with the old man, but somehow knew that he would have disappeared just like the fortune teller. She stared into the depths of the alley – was something moving in the shadows? No, she was just being stupid. Her hands tightened instinctively over the gifts the fortune teller had given her and the old man's voice echoed through her mind: ... if you ever meet him, light one of those candles and never let it go out.
I've got to get home, Hjay told herself. She set off, back into the street which, she was surprised, was totally deserted and very dark. She could only see a few feet ahead of her and the dull silhouettes on the houses either side of her. The clouds had closed over, dimming the sky and shutting out the moon and stars. The darkness seemed impenetrable; even the small shreds of light that escaped from the curtained windows beside her gave little aid to Hjay's blindness. Luckily, she knew her way home through the small town like the back of her hand, and could have almost done it blindfolded, had she needed to.
She continued down the street, turned right and crept along another alley. Her heart was beating a rapid tattoo in her chest, and she found herself wincing every time her feet crunched on a loose stone on the pavement. She tried to stop herself from being silly, but the truth was, she was scared. What if what the woman had said was true; that she may not ever reach home? What if, as the old man had said, she met the ''enemy''?